Craigslist Rental Scams

Chris Bianco
Weichert Realtors


It used to be that people would look in the local newspaper to find an apartment or home to rent. Now, the place to go for rentals is the internet and one of the most popular sites is Craigslist. Craigslist is also a preferred place for “scammers and thieves” who are looking to take your money. If you’re looking for a rental property on Craigslist, be prepared to know the signs of a scam. The most common type of scam is the Rental Scam and here’s how it works.

Rental scams are when a scammer “clones” a real listing and portrays it as a rental. Keep in mind there are now many public websites that advertise Real Estate so it’s simple and easy to find a listing on Zillow, or Trulia, copy and save the pictures and remarks and recreate a listing on Craigslist as a rental. From there, the scammer will add a prepaid cellular phone number and a burner email address and now you have a fake ad on Craigslist. The bigger problem is that Craigslist allows advertising almost anonymously, so it is a perfect scenario for the scammer. Keep an eye out for these red flags to potential scammers; these ads want money before you actually can see inside the property (the scammer has no access) via a wire transfer, while most landlords will take a check, cashier’s check or money order. The scammer will never ask a question to the potential tenant about income, job or background checks, they get straight to the money part, quickly. The properties are usually advertised far below market value to help convey a sense of urgency to the victim. Many times, the scammer is out of state to create an excuse as to why the potential renter can’t see the property, but they’ll ask to “get the money in before it is rented to someone else.” Knowing the owners name is as easy as finding a listing to clone. Many times, the scammer uses the real owner’s name in the ad because county tax records are public information and owners of properties are just a few clicks away.

So how can you identify a scam? Here are a few tips: Be careful with anyone living out of the state, do not wire money to any kind of 3rd party facilitator like Western Union, PayPal or even ITunes. Do not give any money before you have been given access to the inside of the property. Be careful with multiple exchanges of communication (emails, text messages) without meeting or talking with the landlord in person. Research the landlords name and cross reference it with Google, Facebook searches and send messages through those sites to confirm ownership as well as availability. Expect an application before money is exchanged, aside from a small application fee, and finally, the old adage “if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” trust your gut! Some experts estimate that 40%-60% of Craigslist Real Estate ads are fraudulent so be extra careful when looking on Craigslist and do your homework.